Follow us LIVE! Co-founder Colette Laxton on The Inkey List's journey to success

Sophie Smith
22 September 2023

During LIVE! ‘Marketing In Beauty – The Next Frontier’ held in partnership with More2 and Noatum Logistics, a crowd of beauty industry professionals learnt about the ways to deploy tech, data and creativity to standout from the crowd, reach new customers and retain and grow existing customers.

For the final event of the day, Colette Laxton, Co-founder of The Inkey List, spoke about the inspiration behind the brand, its journey to success, why it recently launched into lip care and more.

Founded by Colette Laxton and Mark Curry, The Inkey List was created to help democratise skincare through knowledge. Built on the belief that "better information drives better decisions", the brand helps consumers with skincare across its products, askINKEY service and various other activations.

"From day one, we thought why are we launching into skincare? There's so many brands and products out there, we needed to think about what we could add to the industry," said Laxton.

"In 2017, INCI lists were not available on websites. So, consumers could buy a product online and not know what was in it. There was a real lack of transparency in the industry and we thought why are brands not educating people about skincare? So, that's how myself and Mark came up with The Inkey List - from our desire to create a brand that was all about driving skincare education."

The idea of making skincare more accessible through knowledge wasn't the only important factor to consider - Laxton and Curry also wanted to offer all this at an affordable price."If you're going to democratise knowledge, you have to democratise the price as well. We wanted to make skincare accessible for everyone," she added.

So, Laxton and Curry set out to develop a range of skincare products formulated with simple ingredients and educational messaging. The Inkey List launched in 2018 and immediately grabbed consumer's attention. "It was a success from day one," shared Laxton.

However, it wasn't all plain sailing from there onwards. "In the first three months, the brand was succeeding and the whole world was talking about it, but business was tough and we were really struggling," Laxton admitted.

Shortly after, Laxton and Curry secured a meeting with Sephora in Paris - a pivotal moment for the brand - unaware that Artemis Patrick, the global retailer's EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer, was in the room. "We got chatting and told her about The Inkey List - we were three months old at this point and thinking she wouldn't know who we were," reminisced Laxton. "12 hours later, we had a contract from Sephora wanting to list us.

"We said cool and signed the contract... without actually being ready for the work that comes with being listed at such a large retailer. But, you have these moments in life where you just think 'we've got to do this' and this was one of them.

"We then had three months to make everything happen in lightening speed timing - making the product and shipping it to the US - we also didn't have a US warehouse or anything at that point. It was honestly the most stressful three months of my life."

Within nine months, The Inkey List was available in 35 countries with Sephora as a global exclusive. Fast forward five years, the brand has sold over 60 million units and is said to be reaching $100 million of revenue.

Its product range has also developed since its launch, now boasting an extensive yet carefully curated range of skincare and haircare bestsellers.

Earlier this month, The Inkey List also entered the lip care category for the first time with a new Tripeptide Plumping Lip Balm. The product, which has seen sell-out success, works to maintain the skin barrier and retain moisture to improve overall lip health whilst visibly enhancing lip volume.

"Our launch into lip care goes back to the question of  'why?'. We found the lip market interesting because of how people are viewing their lips right now - everybody wants bigger lips and people are often achieving this through products or treatments that string, burn and irritate them," Laxton said. "So, again, we took insight from what consumers want and used our knowledge to create a relevant product that is also better for you than what's already on the market."

With an ever-growing range and customer base, it's been a whirlwind journey for Laxton since launching The Inkey List. Reflecting on this, she finished the talk with three pieces of advice:"Start at yes, question why you're doing something, and be consumer obsessed."

Free NewsletterVISIT